As part of my Community Media Innovation Project class (we’ll be blogging our progress at Local Fourth) I got to attend the Block by Block conference, a gathering of members of the online local news ecosystem. I heard from a lot of interesting people about their experiences interacting with their communities and trying to make their news startups economically sustainable. The day before, members of Chicago’s online news community gathered for Advancing Chicago’s News Ecosystem: A Community News Summit. While Block by Block focused on anecdotal experience from practicioners, the Chicago-focused summit presented more formal research. I was particularly interested in research by Rachel Davis Mersey, Vivian Vahlberg and Bob LeBailly into community information needs in Chicago and the health of the city’s news ecosystem.
The research included interviews and focus groups with both members of the general public and community leaders. The survey results revealed information priorities in Chicago and disparities in information access. What was most surprising, however was that a majority of the surveyed members of the public as well as community leaders felt like they didn’t have enough opportunities to hear the views of others. Furthermore, the problem seemed less one of access to media to add voices, and more one of discovering or navigating media to get diverse perspectives – a majority of respondents felt like they had ample opportunity to express their own views.
A full report on the research is forthcoming. I’m excited to understand more about this dynamic and also tosee how Chicago media tries to approach this audience need. The modern media landscape is full of opportunities for people to create content, but how does one build media that facilitates listening?